Mark Hurrell.


Unquestionably good

24 July 2012

Besides the release of Ready to Die by the Notorious B.I.G. in 1994 and Koolhaas’ SMLXL in the following year, no event during my student years has impacted my architectural thinking more than taking part in a master class taught by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa (SANAA) at the Berlage Institute in the fall of 1998. The first two cultural events introduced the idea of thinking big. The latter completely changed my notion of what architecture could be.

In those years, simplified adaptations of Koolhaus’ use of the paranoiac-critical method within architecture - a cynical deployment of muddled objectivity - dominated the Dutch discourse. A sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek one liner sufficed as the argument behind any design. Stimulated by stipends, a flourishing economy, and euphoric critics, this ‘Dutch Method’ produced a self-congratulatory climate in which anything ‘reasonable’ - design informed by random data, based on pseudo-scientific analysis - was unquestionably good. SANAA’s master class was a gasp of fresh air in this contrived environment.

Sejima and Nishizawa were passionately engaged. I remember Sejima sitting, quietly smoking, listening to an exhaustive argumentation to justify one of the less elegant proposals. After a long silence her response was liberating. Pointing to a sketch and subsequently to a plan she spoke softly: ’ This … I like … this … I do not like.’ No rationalisation, no forced argumentation, no irony, Pure intuition - direct, and intuitive? Is there a method behind this that can be learned? Immersion was the only way to find out. I took an internship at SANAA’s office

Florian Idenburg, The SANAA Studios 2006-2008

If you want to chat more about stuff like this, send me an email or get in touch on Twitter.